So, after taking a few weeks off to attend to issues like “paying work” and what was either a flu-lite or a bastard of a cold, it’s now time for us to get down to business in 2013 regarding what really matters in life—hair. I have what some people (i.e., me) might refer to as “difficult” hair. It is thick; it takes so long to dry with a hair dryer that my stylist takes phone calls, bakes cakes, and buys and sells stock while drying it. When I dry it, I take the opportunity to sit down on the toilet and get some reading done. If you haven’t read a Lee Child novel while sitting on the toilet and drying your hair, you haven’t lived a life that I can relate to.
A few weeks ago, after looking at the back of my head in the mirror for the first time in many months (let’s not examine that too closely), I said to my husband, “I can finally tell that I’ve been growing my hair out; it’s longer than it’s been in a long time.” And he said, “Yes, and your hair is so much softer than it used to be . . . like a silky pony.” (Like a what? Is he a closet My Little Pony fan? When I clean out his piles of robot- and succubus-related books, am I going to find a Friendship Is Magic bumper sticker?)
His “compliment” immediately brought to mind a scene that played out in graduate school in the summer of 2000. My English as a Second Language teacher friends (we’ll call them Whitney and Carol because those are their names) and I were in the break room, eating lunch, when the conversation turned to hair. Carol said, “Your hair is so much softer than it looks. Because, you know, it looks like coarse man hair.”
Some people might have been offended by this observation, but I am remarkably insensitive, as Carol knows. I said, over the snorts of Whitney’s laughter, “It’s kind of like the coat of a Great Pyrenees—naturally poofy with a thick undercoat.” (I’ve always liked Great Pyrenees. See?)
It’s now been 12 years since that life-changing conversation, and I can say with a fair degree of confidence that I have discovered several of the product secrets that allow women to avoid sporting coarse man hair. And now I share them with you, dear readers.
Although it may seem like an obvious point, I can’t overemphasize the importance of choosing the right shampoo and conditioner. I say it “may” seem obvious because I have met people (cough, myhusband, cough) who think that it’s okay to, say, use bar soap to wash their hair while they’re in the shower. If I lived on the prairie in the 1800s like a tall, awkward Laura Ingalls Wilder, I’d happily use soap to wash my hair. However, since I’m not, I use, instead, Matrix Biolage Hydrathérapie Shampoo and Deep Conditioning Balm.
I’ve tried lots of other shampoos that were just fine and probably worked great for loads of other people who don’t have Great Pyrenees/coarse man hair, but those shampoos just weren’t conditioning enough for me. My hair is Saltines dry and seems to be getting drier with age. In addition, leave-in conditioners, which I LOVE because they reduce shower time, weren’t getting the job done. (Seriously, what is the point of standing under water for 20 minutes? Only eating cake can make standing around for 20 minutes enjoyable, and I know from unfortunate experience that decorator’s frosting does not hold up well in conditions of high humidity.) So, I now use the conditioning balm and take the extra five minutes in the shower (cursing the entire time—I cannot overstate how much I hate long showers).
Now, after I exit (thanking the gods) from the shower, I must apply the workhorses of the hair world—the styling products. First up is Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum. A small bottle costs approximately $10,000 USD but lasts approximately 5 years. (That last number isn’t an exaggeration. The first number is an exaggeration only if you consider $17 to be less than $10,000.)
There are, perhaps, one million different “glossing” serums on the market today, and, because they all contain silicone, they all do pretty much the same thing—make hair sleeker and shinier, which is a godsend for coarse hair. The silicones are also awesome because they displace water in the hair shaft, which means that, instead of having enough time to write a book when I’m drying my hair, I only have enough time to read a book while drying my hair. I apply the serum after conditioning, when my hair is still wet, because I hate drying my hair almost as much as I hate taking long showers. My stylist applies it after straightening it while she’s styling it. You could do both, really, as long as you use just a tiny, tiny bit for each application. If you overdo it (which is easy to do), your hair will end up looking like it’s been plastered to your head by a hard rain. That’s a good look only if you’re a flat-coated retriever. (I like dogs.)
Next up is Paul Mitchell Straight Works, which, when I bought it, I thought was a styling gel. It is not. However, I liked its effect on my hair so much that I continued to use it. I’m gonna be honest with you people. I don’t know exactly what it does; I only know that I can tell if I’ve forgotten to use it. According to the PM website, it “controls texture and creates a silky smooth finish” and contains “lightweight humectants and conditioners” that “leave hair soft and manageable.” So I guess it’s like a thicker, non-greasy version of the serum. I don’t use much of it at one time, but it contributes to the reduction in drying time, which I enjoy, unless I’ve reached the point in a Lee Child book where Jack Reacher is killing someone with his bare hands. Then it’s just irritating.
Last but not least (not counting my hairspray, which, frankly, deserves its own blog) is an actual styling gel—Paul Mitchell Soft Sculpting Spray Gel.
This stuff is awesome—it smells great and lends shape and volume to my hair without being remotely sticky or challenging to apply. (Not that I need volume, but who am I to turn extra volume away? I’m not Christie Brinkley. Or someone more timely.) It also, supposedly, makes hair shinier and contains conditioners. I believe it.
Not all hair types could handle this number of styling products, even when used sparingly, but they work well for me. I don’t know all of the science behind how hair products work. However, I do know that, after I use this particular combination of products, my hair feels like that of a human rather than a dog. And that makes them worth every penny.